Luxury cars hit record sales as demand rebounds from restrictions

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From Lamborghini and Ferrari to Roll-Royce, leading luxury carmakers have been witnessing unprecedented demand for their supercars as the world continues to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic.

Just like regular earners around the world, the richest cut back on consumption during 2020, with “double-digit” falls in sales for makers of the most coveted cars, said Felipe Munoz of market research firm Jato Dynamics.

But “customers for these cars were not as exposed as others” to the financial fallout of pandemic restrictions, he added.

For the wealthy, “their major problem was that they couldn’t get out of their houses,” Munoz said. “They postponed their purchases.”

The rebound for exclusive cars was already underway in the final quarter of 2020 as they reached for their platinum credit cards again, cushioning the blow of pandemic restrictions by comparison to mass-market manufacturers.

Annual sales last year at Volkswagen-owned Lamborghini sped past their 2019 record to 7,430 vehicles, driven by the Italian manufacturer’s hefty Urus SUV that clocks in at around 200,000 euros ($243,000).

Closed factories meant sales at Ferrari tumbled 10% last year, to 9,119.

But bosses say the black-horse brand now has an “order book at record levels,” powered by the 450,000-euro SF90 Stradale – the carmaker’s first plug-in hybrid – as well as the windscreen-free two-seater Monza, believed to cost around 1.7 million euros.

Ferrari hopes to top the 10,000-unit mark next year when it becomes the final luxury producer to offer an SUV with the Purosangue.

‘Time to enjoy life’

“The luxury market still has very specific rules and customers,” Deloitte car industry analyst Guillaume Crunelle says.

“Behavior is much more linked to personal situations, how their wealth is developing, rather than market trends.”

After a year with less consumption, “there is quite some money around to be spent,” Rolls-Royce chief executive Torsten Muller-Otvos told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Nevertheless, the BMW subsidiary’s boss also sees the aftereffects of the pandemic in people’s buying patterns.

“Quite a lot of our clients said that COVID-19 taught them that life can easily end tomorrow and now is (the) time to enjoy your life.”

This week, the historic British brand launched a yacht-inspired model, the Boat Tail, of which it has so far built just three units – and won’t reveal the price.

Muller-Otvos says that the new car is “much more refined” than its last custom-built Sweptail, which cost in the region of $13 million.

Going to China

Notwithstanding Rolls-Royce’s one-offs, most even among the priciest manufacturers were swept along in trends like the unstoppable march of the SUV – and an environment-conscious turn to electrification, Deloitte’s Crunelle points out.

Jato Dynamics’ analysis showed that sports cars made up just 5% of luxury sales last year, while the SUVs’ market share outpaced coupes for the first time.

In Britain, Bentley and McLaren laid off thousands of workers as the virus outbreak began – only for Bentley to book record sales of 11,000 units driven by the 200,000-euro Bentayga SUV.

Rolls-Royce saw its best-ever quarter in early 2021, powered by its New Ghost coupe and 2.6-ton 350,000-euro Cullinan SUV – the most expensive on the market.

And James Bond favorite Aston Martin has returned from the brink of bankruptcy with its almost equally chunky DBX.

Looking ahead, “production for this year is fully booked,” Rolls-Royce’s Muller-Otvos says.

Europe and North America remain solid markets for luxury brands, but China is where most of the growth can be found.

“It’s the world’s top region for wealth building, and cars are still a very potent mark of status,” Crunelle says.

Munoz predicts that “with more and more millionaires and billionaires (in China) each year, the trend is likely to continue.”

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